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WORKING MAN

ALEXANDER MILLAR


WORKING MAN

ALEXANDER MILLAR


Š Anthony Dorman


foreword For anyone who lives in Newcastle, the ‘gadgie’ is a classic hero figure, a central character who inhabited the vast industrial landscapes and city streets, but who  today is almost extinct. But the gadgie still exists in people’s imaginations, assisted nostalgically by their immortalization through Alexander Millar’s paintings.  Gadgies were synonymous with the city, and even though they have virtually vanished, Millar manages to embed them in people’s minds and trigger memories of grandads, grans and uncles pushing their bikes up hills past rows of terraced houses, along canal paths and into the factories, parking them outside the pubs, and wobbling home on them afterwards. He admits to being moved when people viewing his works come close to tears, “absorbed by a painting that evokes memories of their father or grandfather,” they tell him. Gadgies were part of that intimate community, and were discovered in the South of England through the black and white documentary photographs of the North by Bill Brandt in the 1930s and 40s, and in George Orwell’s social explorations and essays from the North, around the same time. But Millar’s approach is quite different from that of the photographers or writers; he goes in close and picks up on the characters he’s preserving, focusing on clothes which are uniforms - the archetypal flat caps, dark suits with flapping jackets, and the boots. Sometimes he includes the women, the wives – he described his gran as “missile-shaped” and recalls her “decked out in head-scarves and pinnies.”  Those details come from his childhood but ironically - given his devotion to painting these scores of characters, Millar isn’t a Geordie at all; he grew up in Scotland, just outside Kilmarnock. And his father didn’t sport a flat cap, but wore a fedora. Even so, the son’s childhood was similar to that of kids in

Newcastle; he recalls being surrounded by men in dark suits and fugs of cigarette smoke, and women in those pinnies and scarves. When life in Scotland became too claustrophobic for the teenager, he headed for the excitement of Newcastle in the 1970s and by his late 20s, began to paint. Sketching began as a child but this was for real. He became fascinated by the gadgies but admits that strands of memory of life in his village, guided his hand. He chose to use thick oil paint, applied impasto, influenced, he says, by his hero, L.S.Lowry. And like Lowry, he creates realistic characters with virtually no detail, and explains, “The view point of all my paintings was from a child’s view.” This exhibition arrives as Alexander Millar has gained unimagined popularity, and his reputation has spread across the North and beyond where his gadgie characters lived. His working methods have changed since the early simple figures on a road or in a misty, always bluish background. He works first on sketches - in cafes, he says, “because I enjoy chatting to people.”  Which also suggests watching them. With the merest detail and use of form, he creates the greatest impression of personality. The recent works involve a surprising new direction: the skilful depiction of buildings, cranes, viaducts and docks which dominate the characters walking or cycling past. They are increasingly present in the scenes, and pull the story away from single figure or couples, the dads with kids and dogs; to create the big picture, the context. It is an interesting point at which to pause, and this major and significant exhibition could mark a new development. But could Alexander Millar ever abandon his gadgies? Sue Steward Art Critic, Writer, Curator and Broadcaster


WORKING MAN ALEXANDER MILLAR great north museum: hancock Very occasionally in the art world, one is privileged to witness history in the making. The decision by the Great North Museum: Hancock to exhibit ‘Working Man’ by Alexander Millar is one such moment. An invitation to exhibit in a museum is a rare and prestigious accolade. This recognition of Millar’s unique talent by the Tyne & Wear Archives Museum group confirms that he is an artist of international calibre, possessing an extraordinary depth of expression. A self-taught artist, Millar began his career twenty years ago, painting watercolours and taking inspiration from landscape artist Ashley Jackson. Millar would paint the Northumberland countryside, attempting to emulate his fellow artists. When Newcastle-upon-Tyne became his home, Millar started to paint scenes of Newcastle, depicting some of the great landmarks of the city, including the Tyne Bridge, all in watercolour. But it was memories of his youth that would ultimately inspire him to paint the gadgie character. As a boy, the young Alexander Millar, would sit back and observe his surroundings. Taking great care to absorb each detail, each man and woman, embarking upon their walk to work or dismounting from a bicycle, stumbling home from the pub or kicking a football around in the street. Things that would appear quite ordinary to most viewers, were to Millar all playing a part in a choreographed street ballet. All of these scenes would years later, come flooding back, fuelling his imagination and inspiring the work we see at the Great North Museum: Hancock today. The collection of original oil paintings and charcoals at the Great North Museum: Hancock comprises over sixty pieces and in many ways charts Millar’s artistic progression to date. With the familiar

anonymous ‘gadgie’ character, set against a white background and painted from behind, makes him unidentifiable but universal. These men, who are so inextricably linked to the community’s past, speak for a population and reach far beyond the class they originally represent. The atmospheric scenes of industry in the ‘Working Man’ collection are considered to be some of Millar’s most accomplished work to date, so sensitively captured by Millar, that it is almost impossible not to feel an affiliation with this ‘working man’. With the ‘Working Man’ collection Millar, perhaps without even intending to, captures and preserves historical details of working class life in the north east. The shipyards of Swan Hunter (portrayed in ‘A River Runs Through It’), once upon a time, the lifeblood of the region, are now all but forgotten. ‘Evening Song’, with its rich colour palettes and sophisticated composition perhaps best represents the former factory workers and miners of the north, the men who formed the backbone of industry and community, and who are now a dying breed. The exhibition at the Great North Museum: Hancock takes the observer on a journey through the north east’s industrial heritage, emotively depicting the scenes of industry, affectionately capturing the people of the time and humorously portraying the old gadgie. In many ways, this is a coming of age exhibition for Millar, a culmination of his experiences as a boy, his hardships as a man, his passion for the north east and his devotion to his art. He is credited with doing for the north east what L.S. Lowry did for the north west, with this exhibition Millar can proudly take his place in art history. Glyn Washington Washington Green Fine Art


Working MAN


late night early morning Original Oil On Canvas | 28” x 36”


man & boy Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


three's a crowd Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 24”


off to the park Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


take the high road Original Oil On Canvas | 36” x 48”


the beautiful game Original Oil On Canvas | 55” x 71”


let's finish what we started Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 24”


i'm on it Original Oil On Canvas | 24” x 20”


the patriot Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 24”


up the hill backwards Original Oil On Canvas | 48” x 60”


Down Our Street Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


Down Our Street - Study Original Charcoal On Paper | 27½” x 39½”


red balloon Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 24”


big river Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


geordie best Original Oil On Canvas | 28” x 36”


Happy days II Original Oil On Canvas | 24” x 20”


can you slow down Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 24”


yer tea's oot Original Oil On Canvas | 28” x 36”


wash day Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


here comes the sun Original Oil On Canvas | 40” x 30”


the rat pack Original Oil On Canvas | 48” x 60”


derby day - study Original Charcoal On Paper | 27½” x 39½”


derby day Original Oil On Canvas | 28” x 36”


dominoes nite Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


go boy Original Oil On Canvas | 24” x 20”


And on i go Original Charcoal On Paper | 32¼” x 27½”


my path Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


at THE day's end Original Charcoal On Paper | 27½” x 39½”


family day out Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


yesterday Original Oil On Canvas | 48” x 60”


Home For Tea Original Charcoal On Paper | 27½” x 39½”


A River runs through it Original Oil On Canvas | 48” x 60”


time takes a cigarette Original Oil On Canvas | 36� x 48�


THE journey home Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


onwards Original Charcoal On Paper | 27½” x 39½”


hold on Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 24”


view from a bridge Original Oil On Canvas | 55” x 71”


“As soon as the siren would sound and the shipyard gates would open, out would spill the men who built the ships that made Britain great, that made our country a leader of the seas and oceans of the world. The sound of hobnail boots marching on the cobbled roads, the chatter and laughter of the workers carries through the air. The evening would be alive with the song of these working men.� Alexander Millar


evening song Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


cricket kids Original Oil On Canvas | 28” x 36”


secret smile Original Charcoal On Paper | 27½” x 39½”


darby & joan Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 24”


northern lights Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


My skyline Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


my skyline - study Original Charcoal On Paper | 27½” x 39½”


three balloons Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 24”


of time & a city Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


the angel Original Oil On Canvas | 71” x 55”


xxxx Original Oil On Canvas | xcm x xcm | x” x x”


one cold morning Original Charcoal On Paper | 27½” x 39½”


cold & frosty morning Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


and so it goes Original Oil On Canvas | 71” x 55”


mr blue sky Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 24”


lounge lizard Original Oil On Canvas | 24” x 30”


letting go Original Oil On Canvas | 28” x 36”


praise & Blame Original Oil On Canvas | 30” x 40”


the wonder of it all Original Oil On Canvas | 36” x 48”


“Before Millar, no-one in the north of England had captured that spirit [of the region] more accurately or sensitively – and with so few brushstrokes – as Lawrence Stephen Lowry.” Sue Steward, Art Critic


WORKING MAN

ALEXANDER MILLAR

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Price £10.00

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Alexander Millar, Working Man